Why C.C. should win the Cy Young Award

You could be forgiven for not realizing it, given the overwhelming media hype that’s surrounded the Tigers ace over the past few weeks, but Sabathia and Verlander are having virtually identical seasons. Don’t believe me? The numbers don’t lie:

Most of those numbers favor Verlander but not by a lot when you break them down. The innings pitched advantage largely disappears when you consider that the Yankees have been using a 6 man rotation for much of the second half because they just can’t kick their A.J. Burnett habit. The ERA difference is probably explained by the large gap in the BABIP against (.235 for Verlander and .320 for C.C.) which is probably pretty anomalous. Sabathia has given up a pretty large number of line drives, but not so many more than Verlander, though Verlander does seem to be pretty good at inducing pop ups.

The number that really intrigues me is the home run rate, if only because there’s really no reason Verlander’s should be that much higher than Sabathia’s Verlander does give up a lot more flyballs than Sabathia, (42.1% to 29.9%), but as I just mentioned, Verlander gets a good rate of infield flyballs (11%). Additionally, he plays his home games in Comerica Park, which you would assume would help him limit the long balls. And indeed, Comerica favors pitchers when it comes to home runs, according to ESPN, if only a little bit. But by contrast, Yankee Stadium is the 3rd most hitter friendly park in the majors when it comes to the deep fly. Considering the park factors and the infield fly balls, it’s hard to really square the fact that Verlander has given up more home runs than Sabathia and has a higher HR/FB rate by putting context with the numbers. It seems we have to conclude that Verlander is just more prone to giving up home runs than Sabathia is.

But the biggest factor working in Sabathia’s favor, in my opinion, is a familiar one; the division. Now I’m generally not someone to engage in a lot of A.L. East triumphalism, because I think people have a tendency to really overstate the effects of the division, but in this case I don’t think you can ignore the impact it had on the two pitchers. The A.L. Central is, well it’s not good, to be polite. The Twins and White Sox, in particular, have absolutely atrocious offenses, ranking in the bottom three of the American League with a wRC+ of 82 and 90, respectively. Only Seattle is worse. By contrast, in the East, only the Orioles have a wRC+ below 100, and their mark (96) is better than the Indians, as well as the aforementioned Twinkies and White Sox. Verlander has made 12 starts against those three teams.

For a fuller picture, here’s a comparison of how Sabathia and Verlander fare against their respective divisions.

And remember, the Tigers have the best offense in the Central, and Verlander doesn’t have to face them. On the other hand, the Red Sox have the best offense in the American League, and Sabathia’s 31 innings pitched against them are pulling up those averages.

This isn’t really to say the decision is clear cut, indeed the point is basically to say it isn’t clear cut. The notion that Verlander is running away with the award is just dead wrong, a symptom of writers who have been seduced by Verlander’s gaudy win total. But at the end of the day those 5 extra wins are really the only thing that drastically set Verlander apart from Sabathia, and since pitcher wins are meaningless, we can rightly say that the two are basically neck and neck.

I won’t fault anyone for voting for Verlander, but if the season ended today and I had a vote, I’d be casting it for C.C.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

51 thoughts on “Why C.C. should win the Cy Young Award

  1. So basically your argument is that Verlander pitched a little better but since he is in a worst division he should be punished? You fail to point out that CC does not have to play against the best team in his division (his Yankees) and he has not pitched well against the second best offense (Boston) in his divison.

  2. I understand the point you are trying to make which is that Verlander should not be running away with the Cy but c'mon. He's clearly been the best pitcher in the AL this year and I don't think that his big win total has people thinking that way (although it doesn't hurt). CC only edges him in HR/FB and FiP which is partially dependent on the previous statistic. Verlander beats him everywhere else and he has been pretty damn good against the AL Beast when given a chance.
    He also leads in wins, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, K's, innings pitched, and he has easily been the most dominant looking pitcher. C'mon, there is no way he can't win the Cy.

  3. Verlander will win hands down since he will get the votes from the more sabermetrically inclined AND the traditionalists due to his win, SO, ERA, WHIP, etc etc.

    Yes, the CYA may be a closer "race" than the media makes it out to be, but CC is an "honorable mention" at this point.

  4. CC might not even get enough votes for 2nd place in the Cy Young voting. Jared Weaver has been just as good if not better than CC. And James Shields and his 11 complete games aren't going unnoticed by the baseball writers when casting their votes.

    Verlander's numbers are almost identical to Roger Clemens in 1986. That was the last season a that saw a starting pitcher win both the Cy Young and MVP awards.

    Clemens 1986: 24-4, 2.48 era, 238 k, 0.969 whip, 169 era+, 10 cg, 1 sho
    Verlander 2011: 24-5, 2.29 era, 244 k, 0.910 whip, 176 era+, 4 cg, 2 sho, 1 no-hitter

    That's stacking up against vintage, pre-steroid (we presume), AL pennant winning, Roger Clemens.

    Two other seasons worth stacking Verlander up against. Pedro in 1999 (Cy Young, 2nd in MVP voting), and Randy Johnson in 2001 (Cy Young, 6th in MVP voting).

    Martinez 1999: 23-4, 2.07 era, 313 k, 0.923 whip, 243 era+, 5 cg, 1 sho
    Johnson 2001: 21-6, 2.49 era, 372 k, 1.009 whip, 188 era+, 3 cg, 2 sho
    Verlander 2011: 24-5, 2.29 era, 244 k, 0.910 whip, 176 era+, 4 cg, 2 sho, 1 no-hitter

    So not only does Verlander have the inside track to win the Cy (and potentially the MVP), but he's having arguably one of top 5 seasons by a starting pitcher not named Greg Maddux in the last 25 years.

  5. I understand that pitcher wins are meaningless, but what about losses? CC has lost 8 games while Verlander has only lost 4. Some of this can be attributed to the Tigers' relatively weaker schedule, but CC has gotten bombed in four losses (5 ER or more) while Verlander's worst losing performance had him giving up 4 ER.

    I'll also point out that Verlander has been lights out down the stretch. He hasn't lost since July 15th while CC has lost 4 starts over the same time period (albeit fewer starts due to the six-man rotation).

  6. I would vote for Verlander, but i agree that the Verlander narrative has been a little over the top. CC is a very close second, maybe even a dead heat. As usual there is a lot of lazy baseabll writers that haven't looked at the stats in while and probably won't revisit them before voting. Why would they want to be proven wrong?

  7. Ask yourself how you feel about going up against the Tigers in a best of 5 series with the daunting prospect of seeing Verlander twice? I love C.C. and bleed pinstripes, but just sayin'…

  8. I agree with you that the seasons are closer than one would think given the media hype, but Verlander still deserves to win. You can make arguments on BABIP, flyball rate, and FIP, but the truth is, the results are more important when you look at the entire season versus how stats that attempt to measure how those results were accomplished. I do believe the new stats provide incredible ways to dissect the game, but sabermetrics has not yet explained someone like Ricky Nolasco, who always pitches worse than the sabermetric stats would indicate. After a large sample size over the course of a full season, I think there is a danger in discounting the results because the flyball rate suggests CC might or should have pitched better. I'm not convinced that Verlander would not have handled the Rays, Jays, and Orioles as well as or better than CC, but there is no way to know that for certain. I also don't know that CC should get the benefit of Yankee Stadium, which favors lefty pitchers.

    Verlander leads in Ks, ERA, WHIP, Wins, and IP. Yes, you are also right that wins are not that important, but I disagree that they are meaningless. They do mean something. We do know that, generally, a better pitcher accumulates more of them than a worse pitcher, just look at the guys who number among the 300-game winners. It doesn't always work that way, but a season with 24 wins in this day and age of expanded bullpens and rotations does mean something. And, while only one game, he had a no-hitter (and nearly had two of them). To me, that's the icing on the cake.

  9. Come on, dude. You've GOT to be kidding. "CC has been a better pitcher this year"??? Seriously? What's the point of trying to make a case that CC is having "a better year" than Verlander, when its obvious to any idiot that Verlander is having a historic career year? I'm Yankees all the way, and love CC, but the truth is he's kinda tanked since August, while Verlander has rocketed into another stratosphere. Trying to make accomodations for who has a "tougher" division, etc. is really splitting hairs that turns sabermetric-type discussions into a joke. Look, CC's ERA and WHIP are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than Verlander. Sorry, a 1.23 WHIP and 3.00 ERA are not Cy Young numbers. Lots of stats are illusionary, but to say CC's WHIP & ERA are higher because he faces tougher hitters is just…ridiculous. I mean, really now.

  10. Listen, To say C.C., who pitches in the toughest division, has been amazing this season woud be incorrect. But to say he is the better pitcher than Justin Verlander? No Way. The A.L East has some of the best pitchers in Baseball. James Shields, David Price, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia. All of those pithers face the Best offenses in the league 6 times a year. Yet only C.C. is in the Cy Young talk? C.C. has the luxury of NOT facing the Yakees AT that homerun factory called a stadium. How many No hitters did C.C. pitch this year? What is C.C.'s record following a Yankee's loss? What does C.C.'s win streak look like? C.C is only the better pitcher if you ignore all of the numbers and simply say he is better because he is a Yankee. AND if you don't factor in C.C.'s AMAZING July his ERA is an un-Cy Young like 3.32. His August was terrible with an ERA of 4.68! Verlander's August was much better combined with the fact that his ERA has been a shade over 2.00 flat since MAY. Verlander has been the better Pitcher Simply because he ISN"T a Yankee

  11. this was part of an ESPN article posted a little over a week a go that was in response to a similar piece that was saying CC should win.

    "First off, the tougher competition argument makes some sense. Sabathia pitches in the AL East, he's faced the Red Sox five times; Verlander pitches in the AL Central and gets to beat up on the Twins and Royals and Adam Dunn. As Matt points out, Sabathia has made 13 starts against the top five offenses in the American League compared to Verlander's six. That may seem like a big difference, but there's another way to check this. Baseball Prospectus keeps tracks of the quality of opposition batters each pitcher has faced. Here's the aggregate batting line for each pitcher:

    Sabathia: .265/.330/.424
    Verlander: .263/.327/.412 "

    Here is a link to that article http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/15894

  12. In my opinion, CC's numbers against the best offensive team is a detriment towards his Cy nod.

    CC's ERA / ERA vs non Sox / ERA vs Sox is 3.01 / 2.49 / 6.39.
    Verlander's ERA / ERA vs non Sox-Yanks / ERA vs Sox-Yanks is 2.29 / 2.20 / 2.92.

    Let's just call the Yanks-Sox a wash in offensive production on any given day and ignore the fact that CC pitched one extra game pitched. I want my Cy Young pitcher to be someone who can go toe to toe with the best and dominate. A 2.92 ERA against the best hitters in the game is pretty impressive, 6.39 ERA is lack luster to say the least. When the rest of the league has a lower ERA (5.39) than your ace (again at 6.39) against the Red Sox, that's not a good thing and hardly Cy Young worthy.

  13. Not buying it.. Verlander has been an ace.. CC has fallen short of ACE status for NYY.. No NYY Ace loses everytime they face their biggest rival.. Put any amt of pressure on CC and he faulters… in addition, how many times did CC relinquish a 3 run lead the VERY NEXT inning? Opt out.. we don't need you anymore… Banuelos, Betances, Nova, Hughes, Brackman will fill in.. and COMBINED will make less money per season.

  14. Interesting argument. Playing in the AL East, you're held to a higher standard. If you're numbers aren't there, you won't win the award. If Felix would have had the season he had last year as a pinstriper, he wouldn't have won the Cy Young Award…

  15. CC should get some love, Verlander win the Cy, Cano should be MVP and Pedro was beyond a beast in his years in the steroid era: there should be no discussion about that.

  16. And Pedro needs to be a first ballot unanimous Hall of Famer…while I am on the subject. And Clemens, A-Rod, McGuire, etc., let'em in the Rose wing.

  17. Okay, so I will come out right away and say I am a Tigers fan. Upon first glance this article upset me, but after looking at it again, I can understand where the author is coming from. While I do not agree that CC has been better than Verlander this year, I do agree with what I believe to be the main point of the article. Sabathia has had a very good, unappreciated year. Even a couple months back the media made the CY young race between Weaver and Verlander, with CC a distant third, it is almost as if CC was a non-factor this year, when that has not been the case. CC has had an excellent season and in my opinion should finish 2nd behind JV and than maybe Shields a distant third.

  18. CC's WHIP is grotesque. CC's H/9 is grotesque. CC's performance against his own division is grotesque. CC's meltdowns are grotesque. He's given up 6 or more earned runs on three occasions this year. That is not Cy worthy. He has given up 10 hits on six occasions. That is not Cy worthy. His ERA+ is 146. That is not Cy worthy. He trails Verlander in SIERA (which, BTW, is a much more refined and useful gauge of a pitcher than FIP or xFIP). That is not Cy worthy. His ERA is only 8th best in the AL. That is not Cy worthy. His BAA is 65 points higher than that of Verlander. That is not Cy worthy. Shall I go on?